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Wait A Few Days Or Violate HIPAA…

, , , , | Right | July 15, 2021

I’m training at my new job, learning how to schedule patients for medical appointments. At this point in the training, I’m answering calls and scheduling while my trainer watches to be sure I’ve learned what I need to and in case I have questions. A man calls to schedule a non-urgent appointment, hoping to get in the next day. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything available.

Me: “I know you were hoping to get in earlier, but the next available appointment I can find for you is the coming Monday, at 11:00.”

Caller: “Hmm, I was really hoping to get in tomorrow. There’s nothing open?”

There are a few slots for emergencies, but again, his is a non-urgent need, so I don’t even tell him about those.

Me: “The soonest I can offer you is that spot on Monday. I can schedule you for it and also put you on our cancellation list; it’s no guarantee, but if someone cancels an appointment in the next few days before Monday, we’ll call you to get you in sooner.”

Caller: *Perfectly pleasant, not a hint of rudeness* “How about, instead of the cancellation list, you call some of the other patients and ask if they’d be willing to reschedule to Monday, and I can have one of those spots?”

My trainer’s eyes go wide.

Me: “No, I’m sorry, sir, I can’t do that.”

Caller: *Again, no rude tone in the slightest* “I can call them for you if you give me their phone numbers; I’m sure you have a busy job.”

My trainer’s jaw about hits the floor now.

Me: “No, sir, I can’t give out patients’ private information. The best I can offer is that Monday appointment and the cancellation list.”

Caller: *Still incredibly pleasant* “Okay, I guess that will work. Let me give you my cell phone number so you can reach me right away if anyone cancels.”

I book the appointment and put him on the cancellation list with his cell number, and the polite but baffling call ends.

Trainer: “I’ve been working here for seven years. I have never heard anyone ask for patients’ phone numbers to call them asking to trade appointments. If I hadn’t been here listening to the call and you’d told me what happened, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

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